Stewart Sheppard, the grandson of visionary Canadian artist Lawren S. Harris, has donated a selection of his grandfather's art materials to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection
. Among the rare artifacts, several of which are now on display in the gallery, are Harris's paintbox, two palettes, a wood panel for sketching, a canvas stretcher, several knives and brushes, and a small wooden box containing drawing tools. The objects are an invaluable source of insight into the working methods of one of Canada's most celebrated artists and thinkers.
"The McMichael is so pleased and honoured to receive Mr. Sheppard's generous donation of artifacts," said McMichael Executive Director and CEO, Victoria Dickenson. "The work of Lawren Harris represents such an important part of the Collection, and these objects will give curators, art historians, and visitors a better understanding of the artistic process behind Canadian masterworks like Mt. Lefroy and Pic Island."
The paintbox likely dates from Harris's early landscape period when he would have been working outdoors. Portable and lightweight, it is characterized by a series of slots in the lid which allowed the artist to stack and transport his oil sketches. After Harris's death, the paint box and accompanying objects were transferred to his daughter, Margaret Knox, and later to his grandson.
The McMichael currently possesses similar artifacts belonging to Tom Thomson, J.E.H. MacDonald, A.Y. Jackson, A.J. Casson, Franklin Carmichael, F.H. Varley, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, and L.L. FitzGerald, which are often displayed as part of temporary and permanent collection exhibitions.
Harris occupies a particularly distinguished place within the history of the McMichael. The first work by a Group of Seven member purchased by the founders, Robert and Signe McMichael, was a small painting by Harris entitled, Montreal River (c. 1920), which was paid for in installments.
Harris and his wife Bess are both buried in the Artists' Cemetery on the McMichael grounds, alongside five fellow Group of Seven members and their wives.